by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The 85-year-old Carnegie Mellon professor Allan Meltzer, author of “a well-regarded two-volume history of the Federal Reserve,” is no fan of the current Fed’s activity. Jack Willoughby details Meltzer’s concerns in the latest “Economic Beat” column for Barron’s.
Meltzer, who also advises politicians like Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, a conservative Republican who sits on the powerful Senate Banking Committee, doesn’t restrict his criticism to Bernanke. He blames President Obama for antibusiness policies that have heightened uncertainty. Today businessmen and savers rightly feel under attack, so they hold back. He says, “Corporations have more cash than they ever had. They don’t want to invest because the administration looks hostile. Today we hear Obama wanting to tax the rich, even to reach into 401(k) savings plans to cap returns (‘President Obama Thinks Your IRA Is Too Big,’ Barron’s, June 22).”
The historical context reminds him of the late 1930s, when the country was emerging from recession but President Franklin Roosevelt bowed to populist sentiment by toughening antitrust laws, set up a special study on corporate competition, and supported unions when they illegally occupied General Motors during a strike.
At the same time Meltzer worries that a perverse set of incentives has been created that reward speculators over savers. …
… The average American would be much better off if the government ended the subsidies to the banks, and replaced them with higher capital requirements of about 20%. Sensible capital requirements protected the big institutions during the Depression. He believes in limited, sensible regulations that protect big business from itself, along with lower taxes, to get investment going and to get Americans back to work.
Economic research clearly shows that ailing economies get turned around by reducing taxes. “The president is simply wrong. There’s nothing else I can say.”